Noah and Lucas Francis never have to wonder where their mother, Amelia Tuplin, is during one of their football games. No matter the size of the crowd, her voice – and her jangling cowbell — resonate distinctly.

Though many miles farther away, they don’t have to guess too hard about their father’s whereabouts, either.

Shortly after each game, Billy Francis will be at home, his ear glued to a phone, listening to the boys’ most recent football exploits.

The Lisbon football duo has one parent who couldn’t possibly get any closer to the team. The other seems impossibly far away.

But the common thread for the Francis brothers? Love and support of family, in their most basic forms.

The football-playing brothers, who have helped lead Lisbon High School to the Class D state championship game this season, are blessed with double the support: They essentially have two families. Tuplin lives in Lisbon with their stepfather, Jeff, and younger siblings — Jeffrey, Jacoby and Haley-Jane.

Advertisement

Their father lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, on the Pictou Landing First Nation reservation, with the brothers’ stepmother and more siblings.

Moving, acclimating

The boys moved from Canada to the United States with their mother and stepfather in 2004. Noah was 5 years old. Lucas was 3. After a quick stay in Boston, they settled in Lisbon.

One of the earliest memories the Francis brothers have involves football. They almost immediately took to the sport which wasn’t an option for them in Canada.

“On the reservation you’re really limited,” Noah said. “We came down here, got our citizenship, and started playing football really young.”

The move, of course, wasn’t football- or sports-related in the first place. Tuplin wanted her sons to have opportunities she never had growing up on the Abegweit First Nation reservation in Prince Edward Island.

Advertisement

“I kind of vicariously live through them,” Tuplin admitted. “I didn’t have the same opportunities they have here. I didn’t have the same type of athletic opportunities in the small community I grew up in.”

Two years after arriving in Lisbon, in 2006, Tuplin signed the brothers up for football. She said the sport came natural to them at a young age. It’s in their blood, she said, even if football isn’t synonymous with First Nations people.

“I’ve followed football for years with the NFL,” Billy Francis said from his home in Nova Scotia, “but football is not played locally around here.”

Billy, like many Canadians, said he was a hockey player. But his two far-away sons have turned into fine football players, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I talk to him every day after the games,” Noah said. “I give him a call or shoot him a Facebook message. He follows all my mom’s Facebook posts. He follows it.

“(He thinks it’s) really great that we’re doing something a lot of kids from our background don’t do much.”

Advertisement

Plenty of support

Tuplin said the brothers “are lucky enough to have two dads.” Jeff Tuplin, Amelia’s husband and the brothers’ stepfather, introduced them to football, and has been following their careers as closely as his wife.

But the Tuplins show their support during games in very different ways. Amelia is “loud,” according to Lucas, clanging her cowbell and screaming above the crowd.

Jeff, meanwhile stays quiet. Part of that is due to his spot on the “chain gang” during home games, where Amelia said he has to stay quiet and unbiased. He doesn’t have to stay silent during away games, but he does, usually standing in the corner, where he speaks with his eyes, nodding knowing glances — or glares — in his stepsons’ direction.

The rest of the Francises’ fan base, Billy and the part of the family that remains in Canada, follow Amelia Tuplin’s game updates on Facebook.

“I have a following on Facebook from all of (the boys’) family from away who follow their every move,” Tuplin said. “And sometimes I can’t update them, unfortunately, because I pace the sidelines.”

Advertisement

“She sometimes looks forward to (games) more than we do,” Noah said with a wry smile. “She gets a little more emotional than we do sometimes.”

“Seeing her break down in tears after we win, it’s a great thing,” added Lucas, who called his mother “our No. 1 fan.”

Billy, meanwhile, is just one of many of the Francises’ fans in Canada, where Noah and Lucas are “like local superstars,” according to Tuplin.

“The boys have a huge following in Canada,” she said. “I post so much on Facebook, and sometimes I flood it because they have so much family all over Canada. Their grandmother is in Alberta, and they have two grandparents in Nova Scotia.”

The Francis brothers spend the fall dominating the gridiron for Lisbon, but during the summer they are back in Nova Scotia, getting bombarded with football questions.

“We spend summers up there, going to powwows and whatnot, really connecting back with our roots,” Lucas said.

Advertisement

“We’re up there almost all summer, just enjoying ourselves,” Noah added. “Everyone’s just so proud of us up there. It’s great to go up there and everyone’s asking us all about football.

“It’s good to know we’re really representing them down here,” he said.

Billy said when the boys visit, they are constantly on the go, trying to catch up with all their family. He said there’s a lot more family dinners squeezed in to maximize their precious little time visiting.

When the summer comes to and end, so does Billy’s time getting to see his boys for a while.

“It’s been difficult, but sports are so important to them,” Billy said. “They have grown a lot, having football in their lives.

“They are home more, now that they are older and more independent, which is nice,” he said.

Advertisement

Coming together

Billy Francis has only seen one of his sons’ football games, a middle-school game when Noah was in eighth grade.

That will change with Saturday’s Class D state championship game.

“He always said he’d be up here for the state game, but we were one win shy every year,” Noah said. “Now we have the opportunity to get him down here and watch us play states.”

“It took a little bit longer than we would like,” Lucas added. “But he’s finally going to be down here to watch us play.”

“I have been hoping this day would come for a few years now,” Billy said. “Having both boys on the same team makes it so much better.

Advertisement

“I’m very nervous, but at the same time, I’m really excited, especially since I will be driving down to see this game,” he said. “My first and only time seeing my boys play on the same team, and for such an important game.”

Tuplin will, of course, be there too. She has missed only one game of their high-school careers, and that was at Maranacook earlier this season because she was in her cousin’s wedding. Even surgery last year for a ruptured Achilles tendon didn’t keep her away — she watched one game from a wheelchair and others on crutches.

Tuplin’s mother and father — the brothers’ maternal grandparents — won’t be able to make it, but will follow closely any way they can, including Tuplin’s updates if she can focus her fingers.

One young member of the Francis family who won’t be at the game is perhaps providing as much inspiration as anyone who will be. Two years ago, a cousin, Mitchell Breton-Tuplin, died in a dirt bike accident in Lisbon. Amelia said her boys have dedicated their season to their late cousin, and Lucas wears Breton-Tuplin’s No. 22 jersey partly as a daily reminder.

Football has always been about family for the Francis brothers.

Their playing days together will come to an end Saturday, regardless of the outcome. Noah, a senior, may indeed be suiting up for the final time at any level. But it’s a dream come true that his career will end in a state championship game — with his brother by his side, and his family and friends in the stands.

“It’s going to be great to have the whole community watching us — my father, my mother,” Noah said. “It’s going to be great to get the (gold) ball for them.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.